Applying Critical Theory To Judaism

Applying Critical Theory To Judaism


R.E. Prindle

Jonathan Wilson

      In the most recent attempt to prove that Jews invented or discovered everything Tablet’s Johnathan Wilson tells us why Pop Art is Jewish.  His answer isn’t satisfactory but in the effort he disparages Mr. Pop Art, Andy Warhol himself, in comparison with Roy Lichtenstein.

     First he knocks both Warhol and the New Promised Land in this manner:

     Warhol, that enigma wrapped inside a pastry, appeared to share the Pop Art joke with his audience:  America was spiritually vacant and ludicrous…

     Well art is what you believe it is and Pop Art, like it or not had its rationale that I certainly shared while I have never considered my life in America as any more vacant or ludicrous than Judaism and its Critical Theory of everyone else.  I’ve never discovered any reason not to laugh at Jewish fantasies of superiority any more than Johnny and the Tablet editors find America and presumably myself  so laughable.  What is spiritual about Judaism?,  assuming that there is value in supernatural nonsense anyway.  If you want spirituality try the Freemasons.  My doodness, try Platonism, but Judaism?

     And then the Warhol/Lichtenstein comparison:

          Reviewing Warhol’s diaries in the New York Times Book Review, Martin Amis gave some representative events [that Warhol opened] “the opening of an escalator at Bergdorf Goodman’s…an ice cream shop unveiling in Palm Beach, a Barbie Doll bash, someplace to judge a Madonna-lookalike playoff and someplace else to judge a naked breast contest…It strains you to imagine the kind of invitation Andy might turn down.

     Andy never turned down any public appearance, no strain involved.  Is that anything  to condemn a Pop artist for.  Then the PC Lichtenstein:

     By contrast, Lichtenstein was reclusive and rarely broke his inexorable work routine- in the studio at 10:00 AM, lunch at 1 PM, return to the studio until 6.

     Back in the sixties the Jewish mantra was :  Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so, which also might be the credo of Critical Theory.  Obviously by the sixties Jewish Critical Theory standards  the good/bad judgments of Lichtenstein and Warhol expediently flip flop depending on your needs of the moment.   Hence Jewish Critical Theory opinions should never be taken seriously; heads they win, tails you lose.  Or, perhaps they use one of those double sided coins that always comes up heads.

     But, Johnny’s got his crank twirling.  At the beginning of his article he laments that Lichtenstein was not Jewish enough as though being Jewish were genetic rather than a social construct.  There is no need to claim your parents political party or religion or any religion once you’ve acquired your first pair of long pants.  If Lichtenstein didn’t want to be Jewish he didn’t have to be.   If one cannot reject religion- Jewish, Moslem or Christian- then what is the use of having a brain.  But notice this comparison Johnny makes:

     Roy Lichtenstein…is one of those Jewish artists whose art is rarely if ever connected to their Jewishness…because of the objective coolness of his compositions.

     In Paris when Chagall and Soutine were both living and working there, it was strangely and perhaps anti-Semitically, Soutine who was considered by critics to be the exemplary Jewish painter because, while he never took a Jewish subject matter, his expressionism was read as a type of over-emoting common to Jews.

     So, according to Johnny, as Lichtenstein didn’t over-emote he failed to declare his status of being a Jewish artist.  Crime of crimes.  The point is, he was a free spirit in a free America who didn’t have to conform to any religious ideal.  That’s called religious freedom and the separation of church and state.  As the Jews said in the sixties, nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so.  Therefore whatever path Lichtenstein chose couldn’t be wrong because he chose it, however…

     Andy did treat of specifically Jewish subjects although probably in an objective manner.  Oh, by the way John, he probably wouldn’t have refused an opportunity to open a holocaust museum or perhaps Mother’s Day at Auschwitz.


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